With summer quickly approaching, first-year pharmacy students will soon take their next steps to becoming pharmacists by beginning their first Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience.
With summer quickly approaching, first-year pharmacy students will soon take their next steps to becoming pharmacists by beginning their first Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience (IPPE). Initial IPPEs generally take place in a community pharmacy, a setting with which many students are already familiar; because of their prior experiences in a community pharmacy, some students believe there is little they can learn from their first IPPE.
Before starting my first IPPE, I was also skeptical about its value, as I had worked for a national pharmacy chain for 4 years and thought that another summer in a community pharmacy would entail more of the same tasks. However, my experience proved to be both enjoyable and educational, and below are some insights I gained that I hope will help current first-year pharmacy students make the most of their initial IPPE.
When selecting the site of your first IPPE rotation, be sure to research your options and weigh the benefits of each. In addition to looking for a site that interests you, consider choosing one outside your comfort zone; as someone who had already worked in a chain pharmacy, I believed that I would learn more by exploring the uncharted waters of independent pharmacy than I would by remaining in a safe and familiar setting. Once you’ve made your decision, continue researching your chosen site and all it has to offer before your first day, as doing so will help you navigate your rotation in the following weeks.
My IPPE site choice and the research I did beforehand added to what I already knew about working at a community pharmacy but also taught me much more. At the independent pharmacy where I was placed, I learned how to compound a diverse array of products, as well as how to make numerous sized capsules for patients who needed more of a specialized and customized medication approach to their therapy. My IPPE rotation site also offered a service called Home Connection, which provided older patients with a weekly pill organizer to help them adhere to their medication; moreover, a pharmacist would deliver this to the patients’ homes and counsel them to ensure the appropriate medication would be taken at the correct time every day. Through this rotation, I gained new skills and saw a different dimension of patient care, and I am a better student pharmacist because of it.
Reflecting on my experience, I strongly advise first-year pharmacy students to approach their first IPPE rotation with an open mind. Do not make the mistake, as I almost did, of assuming that you will be doing the same tasks that you performed as a technician. IPPEs are designed to develop your abilities as a future health care provider, and if you embrace your first such rotation as an opportunity for growth, it will give you much more in return.
Heather Wolf is a 2019 PharmD candidate at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy in Lexington.